Neither Prim Nor Proper and Especially Not Prudish

prude

Porn.

It’s something I’ve actually thought about quite a bit. I studied it in high school Social Justice class and did a nice little oral report on ethical pornography that I thought was all kinds of illuminating for my graduation portfolio. I’ve always had qualms about the porn industry, mainly with regards to how women are treated within it, but I’ve always had trouble addressing them. Rather, I’ve always had trouble identifying what specifically troubles me about the way women are portrayed. Maybe the women actually are enjoying the things men are doing to them. Maybe I shouldn’t even be thinking these things are being done to them. Maybe they’re much more in control than I think.

Emily Southwood, apparently, has had these same issues, but they didn’t fully arise for her until her fiancé started working on a documentary about porn sets. Suddenly, her main squeeze was surrounded day in and day out by beautiful, voluptuous women getting down, dirty, and all kinds of nude right there in front of his camera.

In her personal memoir, Prude: Lessons I Learned When My Fiancé Filmed Porn, Southwood walks us through the role of porn in her life, a role that thrust its way in with no warning and little apology. It became the elephant in their room – an elephant in a strap-on and a G-string, but an elephant nonetheless. Having thought herself to be quite the sexually liberal, self-confident woman, she was suddenly subconsciously comparing herself to the porn stars Robbie (said fiancé) was filming and fighting the desperate urge to grill him on every detail after a day’s work.

Like many other women, Southwood always felt that porn was solely targeted towards men: “While I had access to this world like every other sexually active human with a laptop, I personally lacked the emotional permission to explore it.” It’s no secret that until recently, pornography has been created mostly by men, for men.

However, as Southwood points out, more and more women are consuming and creating porn these days. Ethical pornography is no longer some far-fetched fantasy or lie told by the patriarchal, horny masses. Women are doing, not just being done. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve always had issues with porn that I haven’t been able to address directly, little issues of morality wriggling in the periphery of my vision. Thanks to the ever-increasing dialogues on the subject, though, I find myself able to identify what aspects of pornography bother me and what I can do, as a (sometimes) viewer, to shed light on the problems.

Part of the challenge Emily Southwood found herself facing was the obsessive, uncontrollable comparisons between herself and the women Robbie was filming: women who orgasmed at the slightest touch – women who obviously enjoyed penetration of any kind so much, they’d scream with pleasure no matter how uncomfortable it looked. She felt inadequate – here he was, watching threesomes between busty babes all day and coming home to a devoted but decidedly average lady in sweatpants eating ramen noodles. I’d imagine any woman would be hard-pressed not to feel somewhat bush-league in the same circumstances.

Battling this prickling desire to live up to her fiancé’s expectations was the anti-porn feminist raging inside her, telling her that Robbie should be taking offense on behalf of the women he was filming. Emily and Robbie go around in circles throughout the book, with her expressing some half-formed idea of a problem in a sudden burst and him responding as calmly as he could manage, trying to figure out just what the hell the real problem was.

The real problem, though, was that Emily Southwood wasn’t exactly sure just what the real problem was. She wanted to be able to communicate all of her dilemmas and insecurities with her partner but found herself unable to fully do so without fear of being considered prudish and/or controlling.

Emily Southwood’s witty writing style and obvious intelligence lend a bright, honest air to these revelations. She bares all (emotionally, perverts), and by letting her humour shine through even the most sobering moments, readers can’t help but giggle and empathise. Prude challenges readers to re-evaluate the way they view pornography. Even in the table of contents, where the twelve provocative chapters are listed from “Introduction: Hand Job” right through to “Chapter 12: Masochism”, Southwood holds nothing back.

Southwood vehemently encourages communication within partnerships and society alike about pornography and sex. Specifically, she believes that women should continue to have open discussions about XXX, rather than dismiss it as a male-oriented fantasy land that we’re not interested in exploring. Prude: Lessons I Learned When My Fiancé Filmed Porn is an entertaining and enlightening read, even to those who consider themselves blissfully unburdened by ‘prudish’ lifestyles.